Nearly everyone—actually, everyone—has something they do not like about themselves and wish they could change. Someone with curly hair wants straight hair. Someone with freckles wants a face without freckles. Someone with blonde hair wants brunette hair. Someone with cerebral palsy wants to walk without a disability. You get the point.
We are all imperfect people wishing we were perfect, instead of embracing what God gave us. Funny enough, the things we usually want to change are the NATURAL, God-given and God-designed features—i.e. curly hair, freckles, hair color, or a disability. Yes, we can change them to what we would prefer, think looks better, or makes us more comfortable in our own skin. The truth is, though, those changes will not be natural. They will be for our glory, not God’s. This is the same God who knows the number of EVERY hair on our heads. He knew what He was doing when He created each human and creature of this earth. The least we should do is try not to squander it.
However, I know this is easier said than done. It is in human nature to be bitter about the things we do not like about ourselves, instead of being thankful. Being bitter seems easier; it seems less painful. But, really, that is further from the truth. Being bitter is harder and it is way more painful. I say this because I used to be bitter about my disability. I used to be angry at God for giving me my disability. I used to think my life would be so much better if I was not deformed and different.
God gave me cerebral palsy for a reason; therefore, I will not hide it. I will freely discuss it and ultimately glorify Christ. If I had the option to live without my disability, I would not take it. Ultimately, I would not be who God made me to be in Christ without my disability. Although it has brought its challenges along the way, I am grateful I am made full in Christ with my cerebral palsy and all. The journey to this acceptance—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—was not easy or short, but it sure was beautiful and flooded with God’s grace.
Embracing who I am in Christ with my cerebral palsy was a challenge physically. Often times, I resented God for the fact that I could not run fast. In high school, I ran four miles every morning because it felt good, but also because I wanted to prove that I COULD do it. I remember during each mile, my ultimate goal was to continuously improve my time from the last and so forth. Yes, it was a practical goal on the surface. But, deep down, it was destructive and manipulative. Here’s why, and this may upset some people: It was destructive and manipulative because I was relying in MY own strength, not God’s. I was not listening to the limitations God had set before. Yes, all things are possible with God. But, not everything is possible with man. Let me say that again. Yes, all things are possible with God. But, not all things are possible with man.
Man believes there is no such things as a barrier, that the sky’s the limit with dreams and possibilities. But, God says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10. In other words, God has unique plans and gifts for each of our lives. If everyone could do everything, then human nature would no longer be unique. My journey towards defying all barriers by bettering my time and proving I could simply do it was not one towards improvement. Instead, it was a journey towards perfection, which is unattainable and impossible. Four diligent years later, when I truly accepted that truth, I overcame the physical anchor of being disabled. I let go of the rude comments people made to me in middle school. I let go of the way I looked when I walked.
Embracing who I am in Christ with my cerebral palsy was a challenge mentally. If I have not already said it once, I have horrible, degrading self-talk. The ratio of how much I encourage myself to that of how much I tear myself down is an ugly sight. For every little mistake I make, I completely destroy myself inside. I say to myself, “You are such a failure, Renata. You are so dumb. Why do you even put in effort? It does not even matter. Stop trying to believe that people even care about you.” The last is the biggest lie I feed myself. Even amidst all the despair of those words, though, with the grace of Jesus Christ, I transformed my mental attitude about my disability when I began looking at the way I fall differently. Growing up, I used to be livid anytime I fell down, big or small. I did not talk to anyone, and if I did, I was enraged beyond control. Ironically enough, I was enraged because I lost control. For so long, walking properly was nothing but a battle to maintain that control. I wanted something to be mine and only mine.
I had no joy in my suffering. Yes, there can be joy in suffering—Christ-centered joy—as shown in Romans 5:3-5: “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” The moment I chose to find joy in my falls, the Lord began a new work in me. As a result, I grew more Christ-like fruit and a greater dependency on Him. Joy for me is being able to laugh at my falls, being able to stand up and say, “Praise the Lord, gravity still works!” It is simple, yet so profound.
Embracing who I am in Christ with cerebral palsy was a challenge emotionally. As I have a shared before, I often consider myself an emotionally unstable person. Knowing this alone, one can understand why embracing who I am in Christ on this level was a challenge. Realistically, I had to learn how to not let the anger of where I wanted to be compared to where I was consume me. I could not let the fire of discontent roar without an extinguisher—forgiveness—nearby.
I had to learn how to forgive myself for all the degrading thoughts I said about myself whenever I “fell short” in my disability. I had to be okay with falling. I had to be okay with the lack of control. If I could not emotionally be content with that, I would never be complete in Christ. I would love to tell you I have found a complete peace in this area, but I have not. I am getting there. Presently, there are still moments when I cannot forgive myself in this area—and really, many areas—of my sinful self. Nevertheless, praise God! I do not get upset as often, which is HUGE for me. God continuously shows me through this journey that He is not finished with me yet, that I am still the clay in the Potter’s Hands and will be until He calls me home.
Embracing who I am in Christ with my cerebral palsy was a challenge spiritually. To my surprise and joy, though, this was the easiest part to embrace of all the areas. Quite frankly, it was the challenge flooded with Jesus. Yes, every other obstacle named above can be flooded with Jesus. However, this forenamed one would not exist without Jesus. To some, that seems quite obvious. But, for me, it just did not make sense until I clung to Him. All I had to do was open my heart to Him and say, “Thank you. Thank you for making me complete in You.”
That moment occurred when I meditated on one of my most treasured passages of scripture—Psalm 139. No passage speaks more clearly to me about the power and purpose God intended for each of us, that we are not a mistake. But, we are, in fact, unique, beautiful, cared for, loved and made with PURPOSE. God knows us by name and every detail about our lives before it unfolds. What wonderful, sweet, reassuring peace. In the moments filled with the most doubt, I cling to Psalm 139. I know God cares. I know I am valued and cared for. I know I am completely and utterly HIS. I know I am fearfully and wonderfully made—cerebral palsy and all.